Seven Spices in Solomon's Description of a Woman
Long before Robert Southey (1774-1843) proposed that "little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice,” the Song of Songs (written about 900 BC) also known as Song of Solomon, listed a variety of spices in its description of an adult woman.
On the wedding night, the groom in The Song (4: 13, 14) describes his bride as a private garden of choice fruits with spices.
"Henna and nard . . . and saffron, calamus and cinnamon . . . with myrrh and aloes."
What do these seven exotic spices symbolize? Which of their qualities is represented in a good woman?
Fragrant and Protective
The henna plant is native to parts of Africa, Asia and Australasia. It is most popular for the dye preparation derived from it.
For leather and cloth, the henna acts as a preservative and an anti-fungal. It is listed in Syrian and Egyptian BC texts as a medicinal herb. It repels insects and mildew, and the flower is used to make perfume. It is grown in clusters as a fragrant thorny hedge around the garden.
- The henna quality in the woman is her protection and preservation of her beauty and purity. She wants to maintain these virtues at full strength.
Aromatic and Warm
Nard is the expensive, rich fragrant perfume that Mary Magdalene used in her act of worship and gratitude, to anoint the feet of Jesus. The oil was obtained as a luxury in ancient Egypt and was offered on the altar of incense in the Hebrew Temple. It is still used today as healing oil, a diuretic, and a relief for pain and deep seated grief. It is derived from a plant which grows in the Himalayas of China and in regions of India and Nepal.
- The nard quality in the woman is her affirming, soothing, nurturing charm. There is no caustic, critical element in her interactions. She dispenses love and compassion.
Costly and Colorful
Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice by weight. It is handpicked and placed over a fire for drying and that it takes 75,000 flowers to produce one pound of saffron (from the golden twig).
The plant is native to Southeast Asia and was first cultivated in Greece. Cooks use it for seasoning and for imparting a rich golden-yellow to their dishes. Saffron is also accredited with medicinal uses.
- The saffron symbolizes the high quality of the spiritual and social qualities in a good woman. She is the best pick of the crop.
Graceful Under Pressure
The calamus plant is indigenous to India, but can be found in several parts of the world including Europe, China, Australia, southern Canada and northern United States. Although it is bitter, some people learn to chew it and acquire a taste for it. It is used as medicine for a variety of ailments, including digestive disorders. Both roots and leaves have strong antioxidant, antimicrobial and insecticidal properties.
Calamus also produces an essential oil highly valued in the perfume industry. According to herbalist Jim McDonald, the leaves are “incredibly nice to simply bruise and smell, and they’ve been long used strewn across floors to release their enlightening scent as they’re walked upon.
- Calamus is a symbol of the woman’s ability to thrive, produce and excel under pressure. Her display of grace in the midst of hostile situations wins admiration and respect.
Precious and Flavorful
Cinnamon was used in ancient Egypt as a beverage flavoring, as medicine, and as embalming agent. It was so highly treasured that it was considered more precious than gold.
Cinnamon trees are native to Southeast Asia. The spice obtained from the inner bark of trees flavors both sweet and savoury foods. In 2004, Dr. P. Zoladz presented his findings that chewing cinnamon flavored gum or just smelling cinnamon enhanced study participants' cognitive processing.
- The cinnamon symbolizes the sweet influence of the woman. Her moral fragrance affects people near and far, and lingers in her absence. She is not just a physical presence; she provokes a mental and spiritual reaction.
Bitter For A Sweet Purpose
The Arabic word for myrrh means bitter; but in the Greek language, the related word is a general term for perfume. It has been used throughout history as a perfume, incense and medicine. In ancient times, it was once considered so valuable that it was equal in weight value to gold. It was among the gifts that the Wise Men from the East presented to the baby Jesus.
Myrrh gum is commonly harvested from a species native to Yemen, Somalia and eastern Ethiopia. A related species native to the Eastern Mediterranean is referred to as the Balm of Gilead. It is said to have "blood-moving" powers to purge stagnant blood from the uterus. It is also used in many Eastern and Western religious rites. The “holy oil” traditionally used for sacraments is scented with myrrh.
- The bitter tasting myrrh in the woman comes from her rejection of social and moral impurities. She specializes in healthy reform. Cleansing, when necessary, is part of her generally sweet nature.
Author Karyn Siegal-Maier states that the aloe referred to in the Bible is agalwood or aloewood, an aromatic wood from India, but that is the extent of her information. So we will consider the aloe vera (true aloe) native to Africa but so adaptable, it can be found in the United States, in the Caribbean and many other parts of the world.
The aloe vera is used medicinally both internally and externally on humans. The gel in the leaves can be made into a smooth type of cream that can heal burns such as sunburn, and into various types of skin cleansers. People drink the aloe vera to relieve digestive discomfort and also to detoxify the body.
Desert Harvest lists several uses of the aloe vera under each letter of the alphabet. Apparently, if you can name an illness, you can find an aloe remedy or cure.
- The aloe compares to the adaptability and versatility of the woman. She performs many varied roles, and is mostly revered for her nurturing, healing, empowering ability. In partnership with her Creator, she sustains lives.
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© 2011 Dora Weithers